What Are You Really Fishing For?

US apparel and accessory giant Simms and conservation organisation Trout Unlimited have joined forces to launch a movement to connect anglers with more than just fish.

Over the past two years, the fishing industry has experienced extraordinary growth. In the fly-fishing industry, it is reminiscent of 30 years ago when A River Runs Through It brought Brad Pitt wannabes into fly shops in droves.

For years, the industry has tried to inspire more individuals to fish. Sure, more anglers inherently mean the potential for more consumer transactions. However, many of us recognise that this growth comes with great responsibility.

It’s imperative for us to wrangle these nearly 60 million anglers to come together to build a stronger voice for conservation, sustainability, and the preservation of our precious and equally as fragile outdoor resources.  

While the industry’s efforts to grow the sport pre-pandemic have yielded results, until 2020 the growth and excitement around fishing would best be classified as a slow burn. To keep with the theme — the pandemic and subsequent lockdowns were effectively the equivalent of emptying a gas can on the remnant embers of last night’s campfire. The unprecedented times that began in the spring of 2020 ignited interest, growth and excitement beyond comprehension.

So, has the fishing industry captured lighting in a bottle? Or is this phenomenon a textbook example of too much of a good thing, too fast?


Taking inspiration

The fact of the matter is, nobody expected nor could have predicted what we are currently experiencing. So, what is it about a global pandemic that inspires so many folks to ditch their devices and newsfeeds for boat bags and waders? Whether consciously or subconsciously, it seems people in general wanted, needed, and were searching for an escape.

The most significant by-product of such a wholesome departure from the world’s chaos was that thousands upon thousands of anglers began to realise and grab onto a simple, yet critical fact – fishing offers so much more than surface level thrills such as hook-ups, and jumping fish. So, if it’s not the fish, what are you really fishing for?

For Simms, What Are You Really Fishing For is not just a thought-provoking question and it’s not a campaign – it’s a movement we’ve embarked on with our long-time friends and colleagues at Trout Unlimited. It’s a movement that embodies the fishing lifestyle and exemplifies the emotional benefits and personal bonds that come with it.

“Many of us are coming to realise that fishing is becoming less about catching,and more about the mental and emotional benefits fishing provides,” says Simms CEO Casey Sheahan.

“Things that have nothing to do with bent rods, screaming drags and grip-and-grin photos for your social feed. Don’t be confused – I am not advocating for people to hang up their rods. In fact, I believe everyone should keep enjoying as much fishing as they can, so they will fight for these beautiful, finned creatures whose voices can never be heard."


A sense of wellbeing

In the midst of the pandemic, Simms’ leadership team took steps to help its team members cope with the new and mounting stressors, to provide tools and resources to build resiliency. The first initiative was to reach out to a wellness coach it worked with in 2017. They were able to quickly establish individual and group virtual well-being coaching for staff. And, because of the established relationship, their wellness coach was aware of another established program at Simms — Fishing Flex Friday, which she encouraged and promoted.

It wasn’t a hard sell. Simms’ employees have long recognised just how valuable time on the water is to mental health and emotional wellbeing. To Simms, fishing is the best and most healthy way to unwind, decompress, and destress. It was also a safe way for co-workers to have face-to-face interaction on a regular basis.

Groups like Casting for Recovery, Warriors & Quiet Waters, Reel Recovery, the Mayfly Project, and Project Healing Waters have long put fishing to therapeutic use with cancer patients, foster kids and war veterans.

“Some of us know that fly fishing can be to your mental health what jogging or biking is to your cardio health,” said TROUT magazine Editor-in-Chief, Kirk Deeter in the latest issue of TU’s magazine, which tells the stories of doctors, nurses, military veterans and others who find solace and mindfulness while spending time on the water with family and friends.

To many, the idea of fishing conjures visuals of folks casually sitting on a dock, or the deck of a boat, casting a line into the abyss and waiting for a pull.

By posing and more importantly, philosophically answering the question, What Are You Really Fishing For, Simms and TU aim to provide a lens that provides the general public with a clear view that changes the perception of what the fishing experience actually is, what it means and what it provides. Bringing this aspect of fishing into focus is what creates deep seated passion, and that deep-seated passion is what spawns and inspires positive actions and positive change.

Like it or not, more anglers are fishing than ever before and, as a result, the pressure is on for all outdoor resources. Rather than attempt to control the phenomenon, Simms and TU have opted to embrace it with a simple question.

We all fish for different reasons but, hopefully, when individuals truly think about the question and land on a well-thought-out answer, they will begin to realise that fishing isn’t all about end-of-day fish counts and tales of trophy fish brought to hand.

Ideally, we can all start to recognise that fishing offers so much more. And that, in the end, fishing is a privilege… and it’s a privilege that comes with responsibility.


Words by John Frazier

Picture by Brian Grossenbacher